Story telling is an art. It is the power of words and images, used to provoke thought, feeling and conversation. That is why when the Boston based street wear brand Lis'n Up Clothing, reached out to me to collaborate, I couldn't say no. Lis'n Up is known for its collaborations with artists and athletes, committing to donate 50% of its profits to different charities. In December, the CEO of the brand, Adam Khafif, reached out to me, interested in collaborating. During that time, I had recently been involved with Project Futures, an Australian based organization that works to combat sex trafficking. The Lis'n Up x Noor Tagouri collaboration would soon develop into a line called #TheNoorEffect, which would benefit the mission of Project Futures and the individuals they empower.
The inspiration behind the line entailed art, poetry, empowerment and enlightenment. ('Noor' means light in Arabic.) I wanted the line to become a visual representation of the cause, with words and symbols along the pieces themselves, turning the people wearing the clothes into walking conversation starters.
One night, at 3 a.m., I wrote a spoken word piece that now lies on the back of #TheNoorEffect shirt/hoodie. It reads:
The Noor Effect
To ignite the blazing fire that is our girls.
Replace barcodes on bodies with those on books.
You can never sell her soul but society can profit from her thoughts.
Enlightenment and education to break free from the shackles of objectification.
She is a force to be reckoned with.
No longer held back because she has a voice and a passion.
She belongs to no one but herself.
Listen to her. Learn from her. Love her.
And there will be Noor.
Inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat and his quote, "I cross out words so you will see them more," the team at Lis N' Up and I decided to cross out the word "GIRL" in an effort to "see our girls more." We've designed a shirt, hoodie, beanie, sports cap/dad hat and an exclusive varsity jacket, in which only 100 will be made, all numbered individually. Each article of clothing is adorned by the world "GIRL" crossed out, along with other symbols that we created. The goal is so they ignite conversations and awareness for people all over the world.
There are more people in slavery than ever before (Free The Slaves.) With the mission and vision of combatting trafficking and empowering women, we wanted to take a step forward in forcing people to have that uncomfortable conversation of what is really happening to millions of our girls, from objectification, to the buying and selling of bodies for sex.
I spoke to Rhiahne Ralph, the event manager at Project Futures on their mission, their passions and their fight against trafficking.
1) What is the mission of Project Futures?
To stop human trafficking and slavery by empowering individuals to take action in their communities through prevention, support services and empowerment.
2) What makes this organization unique/what is its particular focus?
It is so easy to look at the statistics around human trafficking and feel as though the problem is too large for anyone to be able to make a difference. We want to encourage people to harness their greatest assets of time & talent and to know that they can use those assets as an important key in helping put an end to human trafficking.
We also host International challenges every year to enable people to raise funds and holiday for a purpose. We host hikes through Japan, treks and cycles across Sri Lanka, treks along the Great Ocean Road in Australia and cycles across Cambodia. Participants on our Cambodia Cycle Challenge are able to visit our Impact Partners and see first hand just where the funds they have raised are going and the amazing work that is done.
3) What is the history behind Holiday for a Purpose and who does it impact?
In 2009 our Founder and CEO, Stephanie Lorenzo, read Somaly Mam's autobiography from cover to cover in one night. Moved by her story she was motivated to do something. She utilized her networks and harnessed her 'don't ask, don't get' attitude to organize a cycle across Cambodia. Stephanie was able to get 21 people to participate raising $80,000 and donating it all to AFESIP.
Today, we are heading into our 20th Challenge! We proudly continue to support the work of Somaly Mam at AFESIP and have grown in partnership with other service providers in Australia and Cambodia that focus on three key areas: prevention, support services and empowerment.
Funds raised through the international partners go to our Cambodian Impact Partners, AFESIP Cambodia (which has raised $1,208,839 since 2011), Cambodian Children's Trust (has raised $45,000 since 2015), The Salvation Army's Trafficking and Slavery Safe House and Freedom Advocates (has raised $564,825 since 2011) , and https://www.childwise.org.au/ (has raised $179,113).
4) What makes you so passionate about working with PF?
I'm actually not too sure where to even begin and I tear up thinking about it!
For a long time I worked in a marketing and sales role that I loved but I always felt insignificant in the impact I was making to the greater good of others. I saw an ad from PF on Facebook for a 450km Cambodia Cycle Challenge where the funds raised went to supporting anti human trafficking projects. Little did I know that it would lead me to landing my dream job! I raised $7500, did the cycle and had the most incredible 11 days of my life!
I feel as though you become passionate about your work when you are emotionally and intellectually excited by the company's visions and values. I was fortunate enough during my time in Cambodia to visit our Impact Partners and see first hand the amazing work they do. While it is so easy to become overwhelmed with a neverending to-do list, I never lose sight of how all of this hard work is going to help others. It is an incredible motivation to see the ripple effect of all the hard work.
5) How does PF "empower and enlighten" girls?
Well to start off with we are a team of 3 women! But at PF we are all about empowering EVERYONE in our local and global communities! We aim to enlighten people on how they can do something, ANYTHING, for a cause that we are passionate about.
In regards to empowering girls through rehabilitation services, the AFESIP Tom Dy Centre currently accommodates 110 girls. Here, the girls undergo health care checks, where 67% of them result in a diagnosis as well as clinical counseling sessions.
Over the past year PF has been able to support:
-33 girls in primary school
-7 scholarship holders studying psychology, accounting, finance or nursing
-38 women in long-term in-center vocational training (hairdressing, sewing etc.)
-16 girls in secondary school
-4 women gained full or part time employment
-14 women reintegrated into home community
-13 women supported to start a micro business
6) What method do you believe is the most efficient in combatting trafficking?
I wish it could be just one method! It really has to be a holistic approach that involves prevention, empowerment and support services.
But if I had to pick just one method it would be education. Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world. We have to use all of the means at our disposal to raise awareness and educate about the crime, its nature, causes and damage to victims. Governments, schools, universities, the press, companies and each and every entity needs to work toward promoting knowledge of this issue, how we are contributing to the demand of modern day slavery and what we need to do to abolish it.
7) What is something most people don't know about trafficking?
That there are more people enslaved in the world right now than in any other time point in history and just how much we are unknowingly contributing to the issue. Every day we are able to so easily wear, use or consume items that have been made or processed by trafficking victims forced into modern day slavery.
8) How else can people participate in the flight against modern day slavery?
-Talk about it! Nobody can learn about something that they have never heard about!
-Look into the real cost of what you are purchasing and begin to take those steps of supporting companies who support their workers.
-Go to http://au.folo.world/cause/project-futures and take 30 seconds to download the bar. Then shop online as you would normally do. Through supported websites, Folo donates a portion of your total to PROJECT FUTURES at no cost to you! Yep, you can support anti-human trafficking projects at no extra cost.
- Get your friends together and host a fundraiser. This can be something as simple as having a movie night at your house or by competing in a fun run together. The opportunities are endless and it a great excuse to get together.
- COME TO SRI LANKA OR CAMBODIA WITH US!! Click here to find out more
9) Thoughts on #TheNoorEffect?
We were so excited when we found out about #TheNoorEffect line! It aligns so well with our goal to make it as easy for anyone to get involved with the fight against human trafficking. It really is incredible that by simply buying these pieces, you are helping to empower people- all the way from America- Cambodia-Australia! As it comes into winter here in Australia, we can't wait to sport our new beanies!
Want to follow along #TheNoorEffect and/or see if we are bringing a pop-up shop to your city? Follow us! @NTagouri and @LisnUpClothing for insta/snap/twitter/fb.
Photos By Shab & Coop Photography.